CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A high number of West Virginians continue to draw down unemployment benefits which may soon start to evaporate unless they make the necessary application for extension.
“We have distributed nearly $1.2 BILLION to just over 250,000 claimants,” said Scott Adkins, Acting Director of Workforce West Virginia.
The process which combines traditional unemployment benefits in West Virginia with the additional benefits approved by Congress under the CARES act can be confusing.
According to Adkins, the traditional Unemployment Insurance or “U-I” is 26 weeks of compensation. Those benefits are followed by 13 additional weeks of additional benefits provided by the CARES Act (PEUC). But there is another set of circumstances which will enable West Virginians to qualify for 13 weeks beyond those original 39 weeks.
“Because of the high unemployment rate in West Virginia and because of the high unemployment rate nationally, we’re able to offer an additional 13 weeks,” Adkins said in explaining the benefits on MetroNews Talkline Monday.
All benefits add up to a full year, 52 weeks, of unemployment compensation available in West Virginia amid the pandemic. However, running parallel to those benefits is the $600/week approved by Congress for those who have lost their job due to the pandemic. There are only a couple of weeks of those left.
“The $600 expires the week ending July 25th. This week and next week is going to be it for the $600 unless Congress does something,” he said.
Congress returned to session on Monday and is exploring another stimulus package.
Claimants must apply separately for each of the 13 week extensions and may not qualify for the final 13 weeks through the CARES act until all other benefits are exhausted.
Separate from those benefits was an entirely new category of unemployment compensation known as “PUA” benefits. Those were created by Congress to provide compensation to those impacted by the pandemic who traditional don’t qualify for unemployment benefits like the self-employed or independent contractors. Under the creation, the PUA benefits are for 39 weeks and those who receive them will automatically qualify for an additional seven weeks of benefits which they do not have to apply for.